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Accuser in St. Thomas sex assault case won't testify, judge rules

ST. PAUL — A University of St. Thomas student who reported being sexually assaulted will not have to participate in a lawsuit her alleged attacker brought against the school.

U.S. Magistrate Judge David Schultz ruled Monday, Aug. 21 that the woman's pretrial testimony would be of "minimal relevance" to the case, and it's not worth making her "relive what was obviously a very painful experience."

The plaintiff, identified in court records only as John Doe, was suspended after St. Thomas found a December 2015 encounter in a dormitory bathroom violated the school's sexual misconduct policy. He insists the sexual contact was consensual.

Beau McGraw, the plaintiff's attorney, sought to question the woman in a deposition. McGraw said he wanted to hear her describe the questions St. Thomas investigators asked and how they went about gathering evidence.

Without that interview, he'll have to rely on St. Thomas employees to tell the truth about their own investigation.

"I don't have confidence that I'm able to get after the truth in this case unless I'm able to depose Jane Doe," he said.

The woman said in a letter to the court that she suffered from "headaches, back pain, depression, anxiety, sleeplessness and night terrors" during the investigation and disciplinary process.

Besides investigators and a few friends, she said, "I have not shared the details of the sexual assault with anyone. Doing so is simply too upsetting and painful."

Jenny Gassman-Pines, an attorney for the woman, said Monday that there are plenty of other witnesses and documents that will show what the investigation entailed. She accused the plaintiff of trying to relitigate the decision to suspend him.

"These types of cases are not retrials of the disciplinary proceedings," she said.

Schultz agreed that the conclusion St. Thomas reached — that the plaintiff violated school policy and should be suspended — is not relevant to the plaintiff's negligence claim against the school.

McGraw disagreed, saying his client would not have been suspended had St. Thomas conducted a proper investigation.

"Part of the goal of this lawsuit is to let the truth shine through. My client doesn't believe he sexually assaulted this young lady," he said.

The case could go to trial next summer.

Police investigated the alleged assault, but McGraw's client never was charged.

The Pioneer Press is a Forum News Service media partner.